Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Using Trello to Manage Blogging

I do enjoy blogging. Really I do. The problem seems to arise with having to blog on a schedule. As much as I would like to just write when the mood strikes me, to paraphrase Gurney Halleck from Dune, "Mood? What has mood to do with it? You blog when the necessity arises — no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for blogging."

In order to keep my newly invigorated writing on task, I'm applying my considerable business process background to the challenge and configuring a system to assist with the tracking and execution of blog articles on a consistent schedule.  Since I'm a "reformed project manager" (as I care to identify myself often) I turned to a style of tool with which I am quite familiar...the Kanban board.  One of the best implementations of a Kanban board I have found to date is the web application, Trello.

To begin, I created a board in Trello specifically for tracking my article ideas and acting upon them. This requires five lists for the cards on the board:

The five lists I use for publishing

The five lists cover article ideas, drafts, editing, publishing, and metrics tracking for follow up.  Any new idea is first created as a card on the New Ideas list.  When the new idea is captured, a label is applied to indicate where the article will be released.  Note this isn't for social media sharing but rather the actual home of the article.  (I write for LinkedIn as well as The Idea Pump so it is important to put the right content in the right places.)

Assign a tag for tracking

When work begins on the draft of an article, I just drag the article card from the New Ideas list to the Drafts list.

Drag from New Ideas to Draft

Since one of the important parts of consistent content production is the adherence to an editorial calendar, I assign the due date for the next list to the article card for tracking purposes.

Adding a due date to a card

By following this process I should be able to move articles through on a timely manner and keep my content production schedule moving smoothly.  Only time will tell...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Important is Gear to Productivity?

One of the favorite topics discussed when you get a group of productivity minded people together is what gear are they using to stay productive.  For some, the term "gear" translates into software, for some it's hardware, for others it's notebooks, pens, and pencils, and if you're like me it's all of the above.

Gear is one of those things that can be a mixed blessing in your system.  Find the right piece of gear and you can raise your level of productivity significantly.  Spend too much time on the quest for the right piece and your productivity suffers.  What's a productivity geek to do?  My suggestion:  look at the hunt as a business process.

Here at The Idea Pump one of the main focuses is on defining and improving business operational processes.  If you look at your quest for productivity gear as a process improvement exercise then by starting with identifications of the deficiencies in your process and identifying the gear available to offset those issues is an excellent starting place.

I'd be hypocritical though if I left you with the impression that my quest for "prodgear" was purely a business exercise.  I'll readily admit (as will my wife) that I enjoy it.  A new notebook, pen, app, or tool can capture my attention quickly and wind up as part of my collection just as rapidly.  It's nearly September and back-to-school, while not only a focus for my children, means I have a viable excuse to look at all the new tools and gear available.  While it's not an addiction, it's pretty close.  :)

Where do you find yourself on the productivity gear spectrum?  Do you grab whatever is available and make it work or do you enjoy the hunt as much as the application?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How To Manage All Your Ideas

This is a guest post by Bojan Dordevic from @AlphaEfficiency magazine. Enjoy!

As an avid Idea Pump reader, I am pretty certain that you are awesome at creating and collecting ideas. When I’ve started actively blogging 5 years ago, I was diligent at collecting them. At any given moment, I would have an awesome thing pop up to my mind, and I’d write it down somewhere, on a piece of paper, or in a new text file. At first, I didn’t have “one place” for all my ideas, and they would end up on napkins, or in numerous notebooks and God knows where.

Than I wished that I could be more organized at it, and I’ve started exploring the software that could help me to get to a place where I will have all ideas in one place. As I’ve been collecting them, the list started growing on daily basis. Once you start having a lot of great ideas, you get on a roll. And it made me wonder...

Can you have too many ideas?

When you get such a huge number of ideas, it becomes quite difficult to tackle all of them. When there is too much choice, we get stuck in choice paralysis. This phenomena is famous amongst marketers, and it describes the problem, that people simply won’t buy the products, when they are faced with too many choices.

The less choices we put in front of the consumer, the higher the chances that he will buy.

So yes, there is such a thing as “too many ideas”! Let’s see how marketers described this phenomena:

...the very act of making a choice from an excessive number of options might result in 'choice overload', in turn lessening the motivation to choose and in some cases resulting in failure to choose at all.

Having too many ideas concentrated in one place feels like an email overload. As you see, having too many options available at once can make us procrastinate. All the diligent creatives encounter this issue sooner or later. There are too many ideas, and the choice on what to work on can become a reason to procrastinate.

How To Solve The Idea Clutter?

All our ideas need to have their natural place in our mind, and our system. As our minds are designed for creating ideas, and not actually storing them, we are faced with this dual nature of idea. It’s birth is in the mind, but it needs to have its physical counterpart in order to survive the death by forgetting.

If you use simple note taking software, and use a tag, or a single list, you will be faced with the chaos of long lists. These long lists are already plaguing our email inboxes and task managers, which lead us to this paralysis of choice, contributing to the “Real Productivity Problem That No Task Manager Will Solve”.

To counter long lists, I suggest you break your ideas into organic, flexible hierarchies. When you deal with smaller chunks that you can isolate and focus on, you won’t be cluttered with unnecessary ideas. If you limit the branches up to 10 items, you will avoid the potential to procrastinate, and you will have easier time to start working.

Mike Vardy talks about this in his “Productivityst Workbook” in section about “Idea Management”. He calls it a “Creation Idea Buckets”. Pretty thorough guide on how to cultivate and grow your ideas, and I highly recommend it.

Why are ideas so critical?

Nurturing your ideas leads to significant change in your life. Whether you are a writer or an entrepreneur, having clarity of what your desires are, and how they connect with each other, will give you a clear life guide, that you create completely by yourself.

My ideas have led me far in life, and enabled me to have a complete accomplishment of my dreams. Having strong ideas, not forgetting them, and making tough decisions on the ones that I need to abandon was a part of this process. Stick to your ideas, and turn them into a reality.

Productivity blogger at @Centask and senior editor of @AlphaEfficiency Magazine. Loves to write about all things productive and share great ideas.

Bojan Dordevic (g+ url)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Walking 10 Miles in a Virtual World

When you spend as much time in the mobile online world as I do, rarely does something surprise you.  Quickly jaded against the newest fad, I tend to cast a skeptical eye especially when it comes to mobile gaming.  For a game to draw me away from my preconceived notions as to what a mobile game is and what it could aspire to be, we would have to be talking about something significant.  Then I was introduced to Ingress.

I'll leave it to you to research exactly what Ingress and how it is played (but just remember this...Viva la Resistance!)  What I want to address is the merging between the virtual game and the real world.  In this game which is so geographically connected to the real world, you might expect those connections to be a novelty rather than a linchpin.  You would be wrong.  The combination of geographic locations combined with the requirement of geographic proximity to those locations compels, no requires, a player to leave the confines of their comfy abode and move about in the real world.  Interaction with other players face to face is unavoidable and highly desirable, with strategies and actions increasing in effectiveness when working in collaboration.

My participation in the Philadelphia Anomaly event (ask a player and they'll explain what that is) introduced me to people I have never met before and likely would never have cross paths with.  It took me to parts of Philadelphia that I only knew from documentaries and history books even having grown up near the city.  It instilled a sense of teamwork for common goals, excitement for success, and determination in the face of defeats.  A game that challenged me physically, intellectually, and socially; all outside the confines of my comfort zone.

Ingress is a game that defines the merger between the real and the virtual gaming experience to the favor of the real.  For once, we have something that tries to put as much reality into our virtual as  virtual into our reality rather than skewing towards one or the other.  In the world of social media, any game, tool, or event that helps dispel the common wisdom that social media is isolating and instead brings people together both in virtual and real ways is something worth being a part of; it is the future but it's time is now.

A note to all players...Resistance and Enlightened alike...when you look at the game, the relationships, and the world of interaction you are creating realize this:  the Shapers...are you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three Tips for Coffee and Productivity

While guest hosting the Twitter #prodchat on Coffee and Productivity, I was reminded of a few important points when it comes to tying productivity improvements to an external stimulus such as coffee:

  1. All things in moderation.  As we are likely all aware, excessive caffeine can have significant side effects.  What we sometimes fail to consider is those effects can vary not only by the individual, but for the individual.  No matter how critical the pending deadline, there is no amount of coffee that will complete the task for you.
  2. Coffee is often more process than product.  For many, the process of brewing their own coffee or stopping by the local coffee shop is the change of venue they need to reset their thinking and get out of a non-productive rut.  Think carefully about your process if you’re a coffee (or tea / energy drink) consumer.  Is the process the same every time?  Could it be the process that is making you productive and not the drink?
  3. Variety is the spice of life.  While a consistent process may be comforting, mixing things up can grant you the creative spark for which you are searching.  Try a different beverage, a different flavor, a different shop, and make note of the results.  You might just surprise yourself.

Coffee is something that stirs as many passionate responses as it does dispassionate ones.  We all have our own views and preferences; making the most popular drug of choice so socially acceptable and so much our own.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Buffer Tone Guide

Recommended ways to write more engaging communications online. This is a great reference from the teams at Buffer and MailChimp.
  • Many customer interactions will include instructions. As a general guideline, invite them to take these steps. Try not to tell them. And make it easy for them to say no. This doesn't have to end in a question mark, as long as it's an invitation instead of a command.
  • We always try to take blame for any confusion or problem. In general, if you can avoid "you" or "your" when diagnosing the problem, stick with that. This applies also for third party troubles. When in a fault-pinch, eliminate pronouns entirely with passive voice. And don't hesitate to use the word "sorry."
  • Feel free to use the word Sorry, and address the end result for the customer, not the end result for us, if possible.
  • Our customers are some of the kindest around, and they're totally cool. Address them like pals who you respect. (As you would speak to a Buffer team mate.) Also, if you're expressing an emotion in a 1:1 communication, use "I" instead of "we." When in doubt, speak for yourself and not on behalf of the whole company, as it is more honest.
  • Warm, friendly, and approachable. Use names whenever possible. Try to invite a reply without demanding one.
  • I have found that my body language affects my writing. In preparation for an email that's going to need great empathy, I sometimes try to sit forward, like I'm leaning into the conversation, not back, as if I'm feeling defensive. It may work for you to hold your hands facing up and your shoulders relaxed as you read the customer email, not with your arms crossed.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quoted in Fast Company

There are times interviews are done with mixed emotions.  While it was exciting to be interviewed and quoted in Fast Company, I only wish it could have been about something aside from the demise of Springpad.